|System: Xbox One, PC|
|Dev: Capcom Vancouver|
|Release: December 6, 2016|
|Players: 1-4 Players (2-4 online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Jenni Lada
The Dead Rising series is always shifting and evolving. Each installment is slightly different from the rest. Sometimes, the changes are minor. Other times, they’re far more drastic. With Dead Rising 4, we have a reboot that abandons the idea of a thoughtful beat’em up that encourages time management and feels like survival is a challenge. It replaces that model with one that’s fast, frantic, and more about momentary thrills and silliness.
Dead Rising 4 begins with Frank West facing the ghosts of his past as he goes through a zombie-filled mall. When we see him next, such a nightmare seems like nothing more than a man dealing with past fears. The zombie plague has been cured. People have been vaccinated and are safe. But his student and protege, Vick, has convinced him to investigate a tip she’s received. While reluctant, he agrees. The two find themselves at a government facility filled with zombies. But not just any zombies, zombie clones acting far more aggressively than normal. Vick gets them caught, Frank is exposed and framed, and he’s forced into hiding.
Months later, Brad Park, the ZDC Agent we met in Dead Rising 3 has come to visit “Hank East,” a man teaching wedding photography. It’s then that we learn a new zombie outbreak began in Willamette on Black Friday. It began in a new, megaplex mall and took over the entire town. No one’s heard anything about it for weeks, the Pentagon is hiding the truth, and Brad wants Frank to help him expose the truth. The two head in, on a helicopter that gets shot down, and must fight the undead to save the city.
I’m not a big fan of the characterizations, unfortunately. Frank has always been something of an abrasive character who spouts occasionally cringe-worthy dialogue, which I always considered a coping mechanism for the situations in which he’s placed. In Dead Rising 4, he’s far more unbalanced and believability goes out the window. It takes Vick minutes to convince him to cover a suspicious case after he seems dead set against it. He goes from grave and serious to immediately joking about the horrifying situations. It takes moments for Brad to pull him in again, after he comes to visit “Hank.” One of the first things you have to do when you get to Willamette with him is help protect him from zombies while he… easily opens some crates? Huh? His actions and behavior also never seem plausible, except if you throw all reason aside and consider Dead Rising 4 an excuse to mindlessly assault hordes of zombies.
This ends up applying to all the characters and story elements. Vick sees Frank as an idol and teacher. She brings him to the site her source told her about. She knows his reputation and clearly is accustomed to his behaviors. Yet, the second she actually sees him in action against zombies, she not only immediately turns on him, she develops this full blown vendetta that results in life-size voodoo dolls and rants about him in collected materials. Brad goes into Willamette alone with Frank. Given his Dead Rising 3 history, his reactions seem normal, but there are times when he doesn’t seem to behaving rationally.
Perhaps this is all fitting, because Dead Rising 4 is an irrational sort of game. The adrenaline, weapons offerings, and scope are far larger than we've seen previously. Things are more frantic. I found myself only remembering to take photos outside investigations on rare occasions when absolutely no zombies were around. Checkpoints replace save points. Saving fellow survivors involves clearing zombies from the area around them so they can run off on their own. The pace is clearly set, and it’s an over-the-top, silly one. Within the first two hours, I was already racing around in a go-kart to run down zombies, abandoning it to use a T-shirt gun to take out a few single targets.
I felt like I was never constrained. Frank has no limits. There are no timers. What there are, are hordes of zombies. Weapons are everywhere. Recovery items aren’t as plentiful, but are easily found. Exosuits let you deal major damage. The only time I did feel like Dead Rising 4 boxed me in was in the case of many melee weapons. With ones that have a wide range when they swing, like a halberd, axe, or sword, the specials only target one enemy instead of taking advantage of the full swing. Considering how quickly someone can be swarmed by zombies, maniacs, soldiers, and hostile survivors, it would have been greatly appreciated if more specials took out multiple opponents.